May 13, 2017

India: On claims of elopement with a Hindu woman mob attacks trigger exodus of eight Muslim families from UP village

The Telegraph, May 13 , 2017

Muslim exodus after attacks
Piyush Srivastava

Lucknow, May 12: Eight Muslim families have fled their western Uttar Pradesh village following three consecutive nights of attacks by armed mobs, despite police security, after a young Muslim man was accused of eloping with a married Hindu neighbour.

The development fits neatly into the "love jihad" narrative, whose promoters include current chief minister Yogi Adityanath and which entails an alleged plot by young Muslim men to seduce and convert Hindu women.

The families left Nandrauli village of Sambhal district, 420km northwest of Lucknow, last night after the third attack, which happened hours after a deputy inspector-general of police had visited the village to reassure the Muslims.

Each of the attacks took place amid the presence of 20 personnel from the Provincial Armed Constabulary - a state paramilitary force - and 10 police constables who had been stationed before the Muslim homes to protect them.

Shortly before last night's attack, Mohammad Nafees, the father of the youth at the heart of the elopement row, had said the entire Muslim community in the village was being blamed for his son's purported mistake.

"They cannot hang the entire community if they suspect that one of our young men has committed a mistake. But that's what is happening here," Nafees told reporters.

"They have been attacking the Muslims' houses every day. While there were 50 people the day before yesterday (Tuesday), their number increased to 300 yesterday (Wednesday). It is difficult to stay on in the village."

The attackers allegedly fired in the air outside the homes of the village's 12 Muslim families, torched their belongings, dragged some of the residents out and beat them, and left with their valuables.

At least five Muslims and a constable - who seems to have been hit by stones thrown by the mob - suffered injuries. Some of the victims have accused the attackers of chanting slogans in support of the BJP.

Officers have been saying the mobs would attack one side of the minority settlement while the forces were protecting another side, but have not been able to explain why 30 constables had failed to secure 12 houses.

"We had already registered a case against the young man for luring a woman away and are trying to find her. The police also registered cases against 30 named assailants yesterday and arrested six of them," Umesh Yadav, circle officer for the Gunnaur area, told reporters today.

The woman had got married in March but, in keeping with her community's traditions, had not immediately followed her husband to his home.

She disappeared from her parental home in Nandrauli on Monday, according to a police complaint lodged by her father Ram Nivas Yadav on Tuesday afternoon. The complaint accused two residents of the village, Badlu Khan and Mohammad Musharraf, of kidnapping her.

The same evening, Yadav lodged a fresh complaint accusing Mohammad Naseer, 22, of luring his daughter into an elopement. As tensions thickened, the administration sent the police and paramilitary guards but the first attack happened the same night.

On Wednesday morning, Nafees told reporters that the village's Muslims were thinking of leaving because the situation was worsening every day and none of them could muster the courage to even file an FIR.

Eventually, the police registered a case by themselves after the constable got injured. Omkar Singh, the deputy inspector-general of police for the Moradabad region, arrived at Nandrauli yesterday, met both communities and told the Muslims that an exodus was not the solution.

Six people were arrested shortly afterwards but the mob came again in the evening.